Nearly 76 years after crippling damage sustained during the Battle of the Coral Sea the wreckage of the "Lady Lex" has been discovered by Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel on March 4.
The Lexington was found 3,000 meters (about two miles) below the surface, resting on the floor of the Coral Sea more than 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia.
The USS Lexington was originally commissioned as a battlecruiser but was launched as an aircraft carrier in 1925. She took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) along with the USS Yorktown against three Japanese carriers. This was the first carrier versus carrier battle in history and was the first time Japanese forces suffered a permanent setback in its advances on New Guinea and Australia. However, the U.S. lost the Lexington and 216 of its distinguished crew.
The Lexington had been hit by multiple torpedoes and bombs on May 8 but it was a secondary explosion causing uncontrolled fires that finally warranted the call to abandon ship. The USS Phelps delivered the final torpedoes that sank the crippled Lady Lex, the first aircraft carrier casualty in history. With other U.S. ships standing by, 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued, including the captain and his dog Wags, the ships ever-present mascot.
The Battle of the Coral Sea was notable not only for stopping a Japanese advance but because it was the first naval engagement in history where opposing ships never came within sight of each other. This battle ushered in a new form of naval warfare via carrier-based airplanes. One month later, the U.S. Navy surprised Japanese forces at the Battle of Midway, and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific for good.